Back in March, the Knicks fired Kevin Whitted as head coach of their D-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, replacing him on an interim basis with Craig Hodges, who is no longer with the club. The New York Post‘s Marc Berman tweets that the development of 2014 second-round pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo is at the center of the coaching turnover, and the Knicks aren’t pleased with the Greek forward’s development:
This week, Antetokounmpo signed a two-year deal with the Knicks, but it included just a $75,000 guarantee in the first season. He averaged 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season in the D-League, but the Knicks evidently feel he hasn’t progressed to the point where he’d be a sure thing to make their roster. So he’ll have to fight for a spot in camp.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo declined the Knicks’ required tender last season. He then turned down more lucrative overseas offers for a low-paying contract with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate.
That allowed the Knicks to control his development and maintain exclusive negotiating rights with him among NBA teams.
What did he get in return?
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:
The Knicks have 13 players with guaranteed contracts plus Langston Galloway, who’s a lock to make the regular-season roster.
That leaves only one regular-season roster spot up for grabs.
In addition to Antetokounmpo, the Knicks gave Darion Atkins and Wesley Saunders partially guaranteed contracts.
In other words, Antetokounmpo will have to earn the vacant roster slot over Atkins and Saunders on the merits. If all three players have similar guarantees, the Knicks won’t have much financial incentive to keep one over the others.
Antetokounmpo has more pro experience than Atkins and Saunders, so maybe he’ll snag the spot. I might even call him a slight favorite.
But if Atkins or Saunders outperforms him in training camp, Antetokounmpo might get just a $75,000 reward for his loyalty to the Knicks over the last year.
This is why I recommend most second-rounders sign the required tender rather than allow teams to stash them. Even if Antetokounmpo had to spend last season in the D-League anyway, he could have negotiated with every NBA team this summer for a more favorable contract. With Antetokounmpo stuck signing with the Knicks or no NBA team, they used their leverage well.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s agent said the Knicks would sign his contract this summer.
Then, an anonymous source said they would.
Now, it seems to be finally happening.
After using the room exception on Kevin Seraphin, the Knicks can give Antetokounmpo just a minimum contract. Two years is the maximum length.
Antetokounmpo will be the Knicks’ 15th player. They’ll also likely sign other players for training camp with the expectation they’ll be waived and assigned to the D-League Westchester Knicks. But if those players make it to camp, there’s always a chance they outperform Antetokounmpo and steal an NBA roster spot from him. The size of Antetokounmpo’s guarantee will both influence the likelihood he makes the Knicks and protect him in case he doesn’t.
The No. 51 pick in the 2014 draft, Antetokounmpo spent last season in the D-League. He’s an energetic, athletic and long forward with loads of defensive potential. His offense is much less developed.
Antetokounmpo – brother of the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo – is the leader in the clubhouse to be New York’s 15th man and a favorite to hold that spot. But until we see how the Knicks round out their training-camp roster, it’s tough to say more than that.
The Knicks have a new signing.
A 23-year-old with loads of upside?
A 31-year-old who has played just 10 NBA minutes in the last four years.
Shams Charania of RealGM:
Vujacic signed for the full season in Turkey during the 2011 lockout. He wanted to return to the NBA the following season, but he apparently couldn’t find any takers. He tried again the following season, but he could muster only a 10-day contract with the Clippers. He spent last season overseas. Now, he’s only older and further from his prime.
On the other hand, Vujacic played well for Phil Jackson’s Lakers six years ago.
It’s possible the Knicks didn’t give Vujacic a guaranteed contract, but merely a chance to prove himself in training camp. If so, there’s little downside to this move, and maybe Vujacic helps better players learn the triangle offense. If not, they’re wasting a roster spot on a player who seems unlikely to help them on the court now or in the future.
Either way, this shouldn’t preclude the Knicks from also signing Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo will give the Knicks with much-needed potential for future seasons. They also need better outside shooters – which Jackson may or may not realize – and Vujacic could theoretically provide that.
The Knicks waived Ricky Ledo, dropping their roster to 14 players (including Darion Atkins and Wesley Saunders who are likely headed to New York’s D-League affiliate).
So, as his agent indicated, the Knicks will finally sign Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
Marc Berman of the New York Post:
Ledo’s axing is expected to pave the way for the long-awaited signing of Antetokounmpo, according to sources.
Antetokounmpo – brother of the Bucks’ Greek Freak – was the No. 51 pick in the 2014 draft. He spent last season in the D-League, graciously giving the Knicks more time to evaluate him without him counting toward the cap, taking up a roster spot or making a high salary.
He’s an energy player whose length and athleticism give him nice defensive potential. As far as projects go, the Knicks have one who probably warrants further investment.
Depending on order of transactions, New York might have a sliver of cap space, which it could to sign Antetokounmpo to a three- or four-year contract. The final seasons surely wouldn’t be fully guaranteed, and a long-term deal would give the Knicks value if Antetokounmpo pans out. If they don’t have space, they’d be limited to a two-year deal with the room exception or minimum-salary exception.